APC primaries and the politics of illusion

The comments that trailed the outcome of the APC presidential primaries confirmed the fears nursed by many Nigerians about the party’s insensitivity to the yearnings of the citizens. Generally, the choice of a party’s flag bearer indicates the direction the party wants to go. By selecting Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ahead of other more vibrant and ebullient contestants as their standard bearer for the 2023 presidential election, the party delegates seem to have voted indirectly for the continuance of Buhari regime for it is believed that there is no significant difference between Buhari and Tinubu as expressed by Nigerians when the latter declared his intention to contest the presidential election earlier in the year. The choice of Tinubu invariably indicates that the party hierarchy does not want to change the status quo. It is a vote for “godfatherism” over competence.

The choice has actually portrayed the party as a political amalgam bereft of ideology.  Tinubu may have fought dirty as he vowed during his campaign, intimidated and blackmailed party members to grab the party’s presidential ticket but it will not be easy for him to do the same in the general elections. He may be banking on the federal might to swing things his way in the general elections but he will be disappointed.

Clearly, despite being the candidate of the party in power, Tinubu will be going into the 2023 presidential election from a disadvantaged position because of the party’s trajectory this past seven years. Nigerians are evidently tired of APC and the leadership it has imposed on the nation. The statement credited to him in the build up to the APC primaries, that it is the turn of the Yoruba and his own turn to be president also indicates that he has no other reason or programmes than his preposterous entitlement claim. All these portray him as a man desperate to grab power.

Those who believe that voting Tinubu is tantamount to extending Buhari’s rule may not be wrong after all. Already, like Buhari, Tinubu has started playing the blame game; indicating that he cannot be trusted to take responsibility for his actions. In his acceptance speech, after grabbing the APC presidential ticket, he blamed the opposition PDP for poverty and insecurity in the country.

Tinubu may have succeeded in buying hundreds of APC delegates to get the party ticket but he cannot buy 90 million registered voters in Nigeria. The party delegates may have given it to the highest bidder but the general elections will be a different ball game. The northern delegates may have voted to fulfill all righteousness, to honour the party’s zoning policy or the secret pact entered into in 2015, but may not be willing to do the same at the moment of truth, what with Tinubu’s domineering attitude and his alleged insufferable bulimic tendencies that made him bestride Lagos politics. The bickering and shilly-shallying that attended the party’s primary indicates that there is no internal cohesion within the party. The party is still a political amalgam of political strange bed fellows. And with Tinubu candidature, we envisage anti-party activity within the APC. The party will witness defection and implosion before the presidential election.

A foretaste of what to expect from his regime came a day after his nomination, when the Lagos Area boys were unleashed on Igbo traders who had closed their shops to go for their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC). And there is no statement or action from Tinubu or Lagos state government condemning this act of hooliganism and incivility. This may be what to expect if Nigeria is unfortunate to elect Tinubu as president. We recall that during the 2019 presidential election thugs loyal to Asiwaju were let loose in Igbo-dominated areas in Lagos to prevent citizens from performing their civic duty. And with Tinubu standing as candidate, we expect this type of incivility in the forthcoming presidential election.

It is not out of place to say that the choice of Tinubu has compounded and clogged the chances of APC retaining power in this dispensation. Undoubtedly, Tinubu is a difficult product to sell to the dispirited Nigerian electorate reeling under the suffocating pangs of APC misrule. And the choice of Tinubu by the APC delegates will make the battle for the 2023 presidential election somewhat a facile contest for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in a free and fair contest. The North as expected will vote Atiku. Tinubu’s health status, his antecedents in Lagos and personal foibles constitute very serious impediment to his vaulting ambition to rule Nigeria. Already, the cynics among the northern electorate are saying that Nigeria cannot move from baba to kaka—from father to grandfather. That is Nigeria cannot move from frying pan to fire.

Unfortunately too, Tinubu cannot boast of getting the votes from the South for there is no such thing as southern solidarity given that the South-west did not believe in that and will not get it from either the South-east or the South-south regions. Indeed, as it stands, Tinubu can only be sure of votes from his South-west region where he comes from as it characteristic of them to vote their own. The monolithic South-west it is said cannot rise beyond regional politics. The rest of the South is disenchanted with the winner-takes-all mentality of the South-west. The South-east will give protest vote to Atiku’s PDP since from inception APC has treated the region as if it is not part of the country. It will be logical to do that than to support one who treats them with disdain. Moreover, Ndigbo will not vote Tinubu because of his apparent arrogance and his I-can-do-without-the Igbo posturing.

In fact, it will be naïve for the Igbo man to vote him who holds in derision; whose body language indicates that he can without him. Besides, the Igbo will have better future in PDP than in APC with its obnoxious policies. Voting Tinubu will mean that the Igbo man will have to wait for another 16 years to have a shot at the presidency. And it will be farcical to do that when there are shorter routes. Of course, the South-south has not forgotten what Tinubu and his kinsmen did to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. To the South-south people, this is pay-back time. Atiku and PDP will have to negotiate with Ndigbo in the South-east and enlist their support as they have been the major supporters of the party since inception in 1999.

The only thing that Atiku will have to contend with will be the media mercenaries and spin-doctors, that will be let loose this time. Atiku’s media team will have a lot of work to contend with this horde of media hirelings, hack-writers, interlopers masquerading as progressives and pro-democrats that will be left unhinged this period. Indeed, Nigeria is going to have a rehash of ballyhoo campaigns as it was in 2015.

Nigeria this is the time to decide your future. What Nigeria needs now is a selfless leader with ideas, capabilities and willingness to move the country forward; not an emperor with spurious primordial entitlement claim to the presidential throne. Nigeria needs a statesman, a patriot and a unifier as a leader and a political platform that recognises our multi-cultural characteristics. It will be a shame and a disaster of unimaginable proportion if Nigeria repeats the mistake of 2015 for it may never recover from it. Nigeria the choice is yours to make; whether to remain trapped in the vortex of misery and uncertainty or move forward. The world is watching.

Irogboli, an economist, a novelist and a public policy analyst, writes from Abuja via [email protected]

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